Cabernet Franc autumn 2008

Cabernet Franc autumn 2008

Our maritime climate is distinctly different to Auckland city just 12k away to the west. We are warmer and dryer when it matters (particularly January to April), lying in the rain shadow between the Waitakere ranges to the West and the Coromandel peninsula to the East.

Some studies have noted the similarities in our climate to the Medoc in Bordeaux – another distinctly maritime region. However our latitude is equivalent to the south of Spain and it is the surrounding oceans that keep our diurnal temperature range cooler and narrower.

High rainfall (irrigation not required), dry summers (no significant rainfall for 3-4 months up to harvest in some seasons), high UV and salt-laden dessicating winds (great botryitis control) are all significant factors.

The thin, acidic, cracking clay-based soil contains weathered Jurassic rock fragments and a layer of grey volcanic ash derived from nearby Rangitoto eruptions. It is impoverished, calcium, boron and phosphate-poor, with low organic matter, but rich in magnesium from nodules within both the soil and the base rock greywacke below. The clay soil sets like concrete in summer with cracks several inches across.

As we planted we dug up Kauri gum throughout the vineyard – the giant trees one of the key factors in leaching goodness from the soil before the erupting Rangitoto burnt off the forests on the West end of Waiheke and the adjacent islands in the gulf. The poor soils are separated from the base rock by varying depths of aluminium-rich rubbery but water-retaining yellow clay. If the best wines are made in the poorest soils we have a great foundation!

The vineyard (see the red x on the ridge or fold line of the geological map left) sits on the eroded core of an ancient massive mountain ridge (from which we get our name) composed of deep core rocks of the Upper Jurassic period about 5000 metres thick and 155 million years old. At our site these rocks are made up of a top layer of thick, fine graded sandstones, finely bedded mudstones and siltstones with magnesium nodules and thin layers of mysterious rocks called cherts  composed of almost pure silica from great depths in the abyssal trench.

We hand-planted our vineyard from September 2002, initially with Syrah MS  and new top quality clones of Cabernet Franc and later with Montepulciano, Pinot Gris and Syrah Chave). As the best wines require optimum fruit quality, we aim for full phenolic maturity through proactive viticultural techniques including careful soil management with annual soil tests, improving the biomass and the organic matter and avoiding copper sprays, the accumulation of which can destroy the soil quality permanently,  and intense  canopy management continuously throughout the season (bud removal, leaf plucking, shoot thinning,  shoot positioning and bunch thinning), to achieve low fruit yields and to allow good airflow through the canopy and around the fruit as well as sunlight penetration.

swnz-278As we are only transient custodians of the land we believe it should be handed on to the next generation in a better shape than when we acquired it. We are fully accredited members of Sustainable Winegrowing of New Zealand (SWNZ registered vineyard number 278 ), and are monitored and audited in 12 critical areas, including the safe and minimal use of agrichemicals, soil improvement strategies, good fertiliser practices, pest monitoring and control and water useage. We do not use water for irrigation. Our soil improvement program is guided by regular soil tests and chemical applications are reduced to a minimum using the latest techniques developed in New Zealand. Sprays are increasingly organic and biological and we apply our sprays only in full accord with the NZ Wine Institute Export Spray Programme to avoid any chemical residues in our product. Birds are not shot but excluded after veraison by the application of total enclosure netting. The waste from our vineyard, winery and olive press is recycled by mulching and/or composting and reapplication to the vineyard and olive grove, thus maintaining the quality of the soil through returning essential nutrients.

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